The Japanese say that “If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty”. We all know how wise everyone is in the East. This week I am going to talk about ‘Camellia sinensis’ – better known as ‘tea’. Truly the best drink of the day.
Tea contains less caffeine than coffee and regular consumption has been linked to lower risks of cancer and improved oral hygiene. Tea was discovered 5,000 years ago by a Chinese emperor when some leaves fell into a pot of water. Since then it has extended to all parts of the world. For an Irish person the idea of not having a cup of strong tea in the morning is nothing short of barbaric.
There are many different types of tea with exotic names such as Darjeeling, Oolum, Lapsang Souchong, Assam etc. There is also a perfumed tea called Earl Grey which does not find its way onto too many Irish breakfast tables.
Most people drink tea. It is easily the most popular drink in the world (followed by beer). But tea has some other surprising qualities too.
Applying cold tea to sunburn quickly takes away the pain. Put a tea bag over where your baby has had an injection and the pain disappears instantly. You can even use it to make white hair brown!
But the most important thing is drinking it. There is an art to making a good pot of tea and I feel it is my duty to share the secret with you.
How to Make a Good Cup of Tea
Good quality water and proper brewing time are essential for a decent cup of tea.
Start with a preheated pot or cup (simply fill your teapot or cup with very hot water and let it stand for a moment). Use fresh cold water. In areas with poor tap water, use bottled or filtered water. Never use water from the hot water tap. Let the tap water run for a few seconds until it is quite cold; this ensures that the water is aerated (full of oxygen) to release the full flavour of the tea leaves. Boil the water. Don’t let it boil too long, as it will boil away the flavour releasing oxygen and result in a flat tasting cup of tea. Pour boiling water on tea leaves or tea bag.
Brew 3 to 5 minutes.
Of course if you are brewing your tea for breakfast, the best thing is also to prepare toast, bacon, eggs and black pudding too and a copy of the morning newspaper (ironed if necessary). A breakfast tea with a croissant would seem too much like a European Union hybrid invention.
British Prime Minister, William Gladstone expressed perfectly how I feel about the amber nectar: “If you are cold, tea will warm you; If you are too heated, it will cool you; If you are depressed, it will cheer you; If you are excited, it will calm you” while English clergyman, critic, philosopher and wit, Sydney Smith said: “Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea! How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea.”
Me too! Long live Camellia sinensis!